It's "Never the twain shall meet" time again, this time in London's Limehouse district. George Raft stars as Harry Young, a half-caste saloonkeeper who shelters beleaguered white girl Toni (Jean Parker) from her tormentors (shades of Broken Blossoms). Harry falls in love with the girl, but mixing of the races was still a Hollywood no-no in 1934, so tragedy results -- except for Toni, who finds happiness in the arms of Eric Benton (Kent Taylor), a man of "her own kind." The highly eclectic cast includes Anna May Wong as Raft's obligatory cast-off sweetheart Tu Tuan, former 2-reel comic Billy Bevan, and in a tiny uncredited role, Ann Sheridan. To avoid confusion with another Limehouse Blues, this one was retitled East End Chant for television.
Run time 65 minutes 33 secondsProducer Alexander HallAudio/Visual sound
July 1, 2010
Inscrutable East meets suspicious West
Ah, George Raft, one of the great non-actors of Hollywood's middle years. Here he isn't very convincing as a Eurasian, but he does manage to hold his own as a criminal nightclub owner. Anna May Wong is at the height of her sinister exotic appeal. Little Jean Parker proves she is a better actress than required by many of her succeeding roles, when she would be mostly relegated to second features. As for this film, it is a somewhat energetic formula yarn about an "oriental" man being attracted to a "white" woman, with disastrous results. (That really wasn't a spoiler. After all, it is a '30s melodrama.) Well produced and directed with a number of effectively atmospheric scenes, and if the plot is a bit predictable, there is more than enough going on visually to hold your interest until the very end. The print is complete and glitch free, with surprisingly good image quality for a tape transfer.
FOOTNOTES: Other films of the period with roughly similar themes are, "The Bitter Tea of General Yen," "East of Borneo," "Broken Blossoms" (1919) and "Broken Blossoms" (I936). It wouldn't be until after WW II that East would meet West in successful intercultural romances in films like "The World of Suzie Wong," "Love is a Many Splendid Thing," "Teahouse of the August Moon" and my favorite, "A Majority of One."
"East of Borneo" (1931) might be PD.